Swedish Geneticist Svante Pääbo wins 2022 Nobel in Medicine

Swedish geneticist Svante Pääbo has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his exceptional work related to the human genome. He has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the relationship between the genome of modern humans and the Neanderthals and Denisovans, who are considered the ancestors of modern humans. This work has helped researchers to solidify Darwin’s theory of evolution and the overall evolution of humans. This Nobel is special as his father, Sune Bergstrom also won the Nobel in Medicine in 1982. This is the first announcement for the Nobel prize winners in 2022 by the Nobel Committee. Svante Pääbo is currently working as the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany. Modern humans are known as the Home sapiens. We are considered to have evolved from the apes which roamed on Earth thousands of years ago. In Darwin’s theory of evolution, Neanderthals or Homo neanderthalensis are considered as the joining link between modern humans and the apes, at least through physical appearance. Darwin’s theory of evolution suggests that we as humans have carried the traits which made us stand out in the environment, ensuring our survival. Neanderthals are the first species of humans that went extinct. When scientists found the remains of Neanderthals, it was a remarkable discovery as scientists had finally discovered the missing link between apes and modern humans. Neanderthals had a better-developed brain which led to them having a developed society model, allowing them to survive longer than other species of humans. Behavioral records suggest that Neanderthals used to create communities, which ensured their better survival rates and yield in hunting. Neanderthals used to hunt low to medium-sized animals and they used to hunt in groups. Svante Pääbo achieved an almost impossible feat of sequencing an entire genome of Neanderthals. The reason behind this seemingly impossible is that Neanderthals have been extinct for about 40,000 years. He also discovered a previously unknown species of humans, Denisova. He also addressed the transfer of genes from the ancient species of humans to modern humans, which helped our species to survive and evolve further. Around 70,000 years ago, the migration of humans out of Africa, helped in the growth of Home sapiens as we know them today. The findings by Svante Pääbo successfully helped the Home sapiens or modern humans to have behavioral superiority, better metabolism, and improved immune system which has protected the human species against many deadly infections.  Svante Pääbo’s exceptional work has been addressed through an entirely separate discipline of science, Paleogenomics. Paleogeneomics deals with the genomes of ancient and extinct species, where the genome of these species is extracted, reconstructed and analyzed. The sequenced genome of Neanderthals can now be used by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, and by researchers from all over the world. It can be used successfully to compare it with the genome of modern humans from each region. This will give us an idea about what traits from Neanderthals are carried by modern humans based on their regions.